NPA calls for butchery visas to tackle pig backlogs
The National Pig Association (NPA) has urged the government to extend its offer of short-term visas to butchery workers to help avoid further disruption in the pig sector.
The government has announced that up to 5,500 poultry workers will be able to work in the UK for three months until 24th December, through the Temporary Workers route. Up to 5,000 HGV drivers will also be able to come to the UK to transport food and fuel in the run-up to Christmas. There were no measures for the pig sector, despite repeated requests from processors and the pig industry for short-term visas.
The backlog is estimated by NPA to be over 100,000 pigs with some farmers having run out of space and many more at or close to the limit. While some processors are working with the industry to reduce the backlog, preparations are being made for a welfare cull, which is now more likely to have to happen on farms due to a chronic shortage of butchers in pork processing plants.
“Long-term decline of British pig production”
NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies said: “We were extremely disappointed that the government has ignored repeated requests for temporary visas for butchers, despite the overwhelming evidence of the impact this is having across the supply chain.
“We desperately need those visas, even for a short period of time to help us get rid of the backlog. This is not just about saving Christmas, which seems to be the government’s sole focus, but about protecting pig welfare and averting an environmental disaster.
“If we don’t get the help we need, it is true that consumers will be denied their Christmas favourites, like pigs in blankets. But we are also facing the long-term decline of British pig production and we need the government to wake up to this now.”
NPA is warning of a significant contraction of UK pork production which it says will increase the UK’s reliance on EU imports.
The association is also asking retailers to play their part in reducing the backlog by prioritising British product over imported. Davies explained: “There is a lot the retailers can do to help ease the backlog, and we believe that they have a responsibility to do so given their commitments to British pork.”
“This isn’t just about Christmas”
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland shares the NPA’s concern as it has also called on the government to go further if it is to tackle the labour crisis on Scottish farms and in the wider Scottish food and drink sector.
NFU Scotland’s Chief Executive Scott Walker said: “While the focus around labour shortages has been on Christmas goods and fuel, the impact of the labour crisis, affecting both permanent and seasonal staff, is being widely felt among our membership and that needs a meaningful, long-term approach.
“This isn’t just about Christmas, and it isn’t just about making sure there are enough turkeys or fuel to go round. There’s an awful lot more that needs to be done by the UK government to really solve the labour crisis that we are facing.”